More views of business development from Madera Mayor Robert Poythress:
“The things that are happening here in Madera aren’t happening because we’ve planned them. The casino, the high-speed rail, things of that sort are things that have just occurred.
“Probably the closest thing we have to planning is our agriculture base. They have seen opportunities due to commodity prices and other pressures, but they have shown the ability to move on their feet, say, from a row crop dominated farming scene to more of a permanent crop type of develop that’s taken tens of thousands of dollars per acre to develop, but from which we’ve seen some excellent results. The ag economy is off the charts right now, basically for grape growers, almond growers and raisin growers, and it’s kind of skewing. There’s a few people making lots and lots of money right now. But it’s been a well planned economic success story. Planning, developing and reaching goal. That’s how it works.”
“There are a lot of businesses in this city who have profited from the prosperity of the farmers. The packers, the box makers, the insurance guys, hardware, chemical sales, you name it. Anybody who touches ag. But, there are still so many people who have been left at the train station.
“To move forward as a community, we need to develop a game plane. We need a situational analysis to see where we are now. What I’ve observed is we’ve got a great city in terms of its people. There’s volunteerism, there are people who are stepping up in various volunteer initiatives such as Love Madera and Adopt a School. People are working to develop their neighborhoods. People are volunteering in youth sports. We have a great group of citizens here that really want to see improvements in their community. They’re tired of crime. We’ve got 1,500 volunteers fighting graffiti. There’s no lack of desire and passion on the part of our people.
“The challenges we’re facing right now: No. 1, we’re a very low-income community; we probably don’t even have a high enough average income to reach the title of blue-collar community. We have a very low per capita education level. We have relatively low job skills in our city in terms of tech jobs. There was a study that said the San Joaquin Valley was No. 1 in the nation for the employment gap — the number of unemployed people vs. the number of jobs available that have skill sets the unemployed people don’t have. This valley is ground zero for this particular issue. A lot of this is because we’re ag focused, with a lot of people working in the fields where particularly high levels of skills aren’t required. Our retailers here reflect the education levels that make up our community."
Next: The conversation with Mayor Rob Poythress continues.